Compound risk, response and prevention: learning to act where problems intersect

The Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development is co-convened annually by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which I have the honour to lead, and Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year ‘s Forum was held in early May. Like the 2020 edition, it was online. The theme was Promoting Peace in the Age of Compound Risk.

The Forum was big. This post offers some summary reflections about what was discussed and what those discussions tell us about the way ahead.

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Climate change, security, the UN – and EVIDENCE

All eyes are on the Covid-19 pandemic and the unfolding crisis it is causing, whose full dimensions are not yet clear. Meanwhile, there’s the climate crisis. It too has multiple, unfolding impacts about whose full details we cannot yet be sure. We should not lose sight of it, of course, and not only because it is very, very important. Some of what we are are (or should be) learning from the pandemic is relevant to the climate crisis, not least the widespread deficiency in resilience that Covid-19 is revealing.

At French initiative, the UN Security Council held what is known as an Arria Formula debate on 22 April. This is a relatively informal meeting so the Council can be briefed on and discuss major issues. The meeting was virtual and I joined Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo and International Crisis Group President, Robert Malley, to provide the initial briefings, after which some 23 representatives of member states plus the representatives of the African Union and the European Union also spoke.

Here, in more formal tones than I normally use in this blog but rather less formally than my last UNSC briefing in February, is what I said.

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Somalia – a difficult climate for peacebuilding

Somalia is showing encouraging signs of emerging from three decades of chaos and mayhem that themselves followed two decades of dictatorship and one of civil war. Problems abound still and there are over 5 million people in the country who need humanitarian assistance and well over 2 million displaced people. As well trying to win territory back from the al-Shabab terrorists, the government and its regional and international supporters have tto meet people’s basic needs, develop the economy and establish some kind of political normalcy with critically elections planned for this year.

Exerting pressure on all this and making it harder is climate change and an average of one natural disaster a year for the last 30 years ( 12 serious droughts and 18 major floods). SIPRI publish a report in late 2019 – Climate-related security risks and peacebuilding in Somalia by Florian Krampe and Karolina Eklöw – and the Belgian Presidency of the UN Security Council invited me to brief the Council about the issues on 24 February as part of their session on the situation in the country.

What follows – in perhaps a somewhat more formal tone than readers of this blog are generally used to – is what I said in my briefing.

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Peacebuilding: the importance of institutions

The Conflict, Security and Development Conference is run by students at King’s College London. This year they asked me along to give the closing keynote and thoughtfully interviewed me beforehand so I could run through some of my main points. The interview falls into three sections: the first is on the central importance of institutions in building peace, the second on the role of NGOs like International Alert, and the third on the sort of challenges to peace and security that lie ahead, the compound risks we face in the coming decade and beyond.

International Peace Day message from Desmond Tutu

Each year, 21 September is the International day of Peace, declared as such by the UN. Each day, the Day gets better known. Last year on this blog I recorded a message. This year there’s a much better message to be had. It comes from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, celebrating the power of words, of simply talking peace. Please use this link to hear him:

And keep talking peace! Today and every day.